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Journal of Change Management ~ Routledge

~ T&Fr~C,o~p
Vol. 10 No. 4 393 405, December 2010

The Future of Organization Development:


A Deiphi Study Among Dutch Experts

FRITZ KORTEN*, LON DE CALUW*~** & JAC GEURTS~


* Twynstra Givup, Amersfoort, The Netherlands, ** VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, tDepart,,~eflt
of Organizational Sciences, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT From this Deiphi study among Dutch experts, the fi~ture of organization development
(OD) etnerges as a loosely coupled communiry of practice, linking very diverse members,
professionals as well as scholars. One finds different priorities and values in this communily, some
of them even dilemmatic. The authors argue that diversity and complexity are strengths not
weaknesses of a sustainable OD. Referring to organizational concepts such as requisite variety
and resilience, the authors stress that OD networks should, in the future more than in the past,
make sure that a diverse set of ambitions can be discussed, promoted, fostered, accommodated and
realized.

KEY WORDS: Organization development, Deiphi study, the Netherlands

Introduction
Worley and Feyerherm (2003) asked over 20 American founding fathers of
organization development (OD) to reflect on the future of OD, given that
serious doubts exist as to the relevance of the research field and discipline. In
the Netherlands, as in the USA, the OD discipline is both very successful and
the subject of frequent critical discussions. Dutch OD professionals are active,
visible and weli-organized. There are several professional organizations, scholarly
groups and training programs. Numerous publications by Dutch authors appear
every year in the national and international media. In short, OD is big as well
as contested in the Netherlands and this observation prompted the research team
to put Worleys and Feyerherms question Where to take OD from here? to
leading Dutch OD experts. This study attempts to gather and describe the

Correspondence Address: Fritz Korten, Twynstra Gudde Advisors and Managers, Stationsplein 1, 3818 LE
Amersfoort, The Netherlands. Email: f_korten@hotmail.com

1469-7017 Print/1479-181 1 Onhine/10/040393 13 2010 Taylor & Francis


DOl: 10.1080/14697017.2010.516486
394 F. Korten et al.
visions, views, opinions, and insights of OD experts in the Netherlands, in order to
create a picture of the desired future of OD. The study reported in this article
repeated an interview study conducted into OD in the USA by Worley and
Feyerherm (2003). The motivation was to add Dutch learning to the agenda for
the modern OD discipline. The research design followed that of Worley and
Feyerherm, but their approach was broadened by adding elements of the Deiphi
technique.
This study resulted in six underlying basic views on OD. These six views can
best be characterized as the fuzzy categories of the collective OD ambition.
These are six partly overlapping, but quite contrasting, views on the essence
and thus the desirable future of organization development. The future of OD as
it emerges from this study is that of a loosely coupled community of practice,
linking very diverse members, professionals as well as scholars. This community
reflects the diversity and complexity of modern organizational life. Thus one finds
different priorities and values in this community, some of them even dilemmatic.
All these ambitions seem important and necessary for the future sustainability of
the OD practice. In line with both classic and modern OD concepts (Marshak and
Grant, 2008), such as requisite variety and resilience, it is argued that it is the
community of practice as an organizing whole that has to make sure this
diverse set of important ambitions is discussed, promoted, fostered, accommo
dated and realized. The central research question is:

What is the desired future development of OD according to professionals in


Netherlands?

This general question was translated into the following sub-questions: (1) how
do Dutch experts react to the summary of trends and critiques that emerges from
the literature; (2) what specific future developments do they want to see happen
ing; (3) what is their agenda for action; and (because a strong divergence in
opinions could be expected); (4) what causes differences in answers to the
above questions and how to assess these differences?
The structure of this article is as follows. First, we briefly describe the concep
tual base of the study. Second, we translate the main research question into a prac
tical research design. Third, the central section presents the resuits of the Deiphi
among the Dutch OD experts. Fourth, the final section is interpretive and ends with
conclusions and discussion.

Conceptual Inputs for the Study


The questions and results of the Worley and Feyerherm (2003) study served as the
primary basis for the field work. To collect additional statements of criticism on
OD and thoughts on trends for the future of OD, a survey was conducted of the
literature both preceding and following the Worley and Feyerherm article. Their
publication was followed up in December 2004 by a thematic issue of the
Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Burke, 2004; Bradford and Burke,
2004; Greiner and Cummings, 2004; Wirtenberg et al., 2004). Since 2004, the
annual meetings of the Organization Development and Change Division of the
The Future of Organization Development 395

Academy of Management (www.aomonline.org) have devoted serious attention to


the future of OD. The OD Network, OD Institute and International OD
Association have jointly established the Global Committee on the Future of OD
with the intent to explore the future of the OD profession and provide practical
recommendations on how OD practitioners woridwide can prepare for future
opportunities (http://orgdev.programshop.comlpublic/). As a summary of the
review of the literature, the most frequently voiced points of criticism concerning
OD are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Criticism of organization development (Korten, 2006)


1. The link between applying OD and its effect on corporate results is too weak; organizations
demand that OD has a clearly added value (Cummings and Worley, 2001; Greiner and
Cummings, 2004; Wirtenberg et al., 2004)
2. There is insufficient clarity regarding the definition and semantics of OD. Moreover, many feel
that OD lacks a solid theory about organizational change (Cummings and Worley, 2001;
Worley and Feyerherm, 2003; Boonstra, 2004; Bradford and Burke, 2004; Wirtenberg et al.,
2004; Marshak, 2005)
3. The economie, technical and cultural demands imposed on organizations by their environment
will sooner or later be shouldered onto OD. After all, these organizations are clients of OD,
but OD practitioners show little responsiveness to the demands of those organizations
(Greiner and Cummings, 2004; Wirtenberg et al., 2004; Marshak, 2005)
4. There is an ongoing debate on the nature of OD. There are authors (Wirtenberg et al., 2004 and
Ten Have, 2005) who feel that OD puts too much emphasis on the soft sociological aspect of
organizations, at the expense of the hard economie aspect. Conversely, others (Bradford and
Burke, 2004) believe that OD puts too little emphasis on the soft sociological aspect.
According to some, OD lacks a balanced approach, whereas others hold that it lacks one
single and particular distinguishing characteristic.
5. Some concern is voiced with respect to the quality of the OD practitioner. What quality
assurances are there? When is a person entitled to describe him/herself as an OD
professional? What makes an OD professional successful? This is stili insufficiently dear
(Worley and Feyerherm, 2003; Bunker et al., 2004; De Sonnaville, 2006).
6. Another debate concerns the values of OD. Some authors feel that OD is too deeply rooted in
and focused on the humanist and democratie (starting) values of OD (Marshak, 2005). Other
authors (Bradford and Burke, 2004; Greiner and Cummings, 2004) believe that OD has
become too value-free.

To identify past and future trends for OD mentioned in the literature, three
methods were used. The first was an analysis of how topics evolved in the
consecutive editions of the best-known handbook in the field: Organization Devel
opment and Change by Cummings and Worley (2008). Next, a recent Dutch
reader was examined that brings together many innovative interventions in the
field of OD (Boonstra and De Caluw, 2007). The final part of the preparatory
search was focused on recent OD literature dealing with failure of the one
value-organization with their exclusive focus on shareholder value (Wierdsma,
2007). For reasons of space, only some resuits of the survey of the Cummings
and Worley handbook are illustrated here. The authors published the first
version of their handbook in 1975, with a new edition appearing every three to
five years, the most recent dating from 2008 (9th edition). Cummings and
Worleys approach is to track the leading publications about organization
396 F. Korten et al.
development and change in journals and books, and to add the new topics to the
handbook. The study checked which topics have been addressed over time and
which topics are discussed at present.
The book s content has changed con siderably over the years. In 1975, there are
four categories of intervention. The authors refer to these as: micro human
process (e.g. consultation and T-groups), macro human process (e.g. survey
feedback and organization grid), techno-structural (e.g. task enhancement) and
human resources management (e.g. career development and management by
objectives). The category labeled strategic changes does not appear until
1985. From then on, however, every edition lists new interventions in this cat
egory. The first edition (1975) describes micro human process interventions.
This theme does not undergo any development (no new topics) in subsequent
years. It is not until 2003 that this category draws (renewed) interest through
topics such as: coaching, training and development, and active listening. The
topic of T-groups (also known as sensitivity training and very popular in the
1970s) has incidentally disappeared by then! With respect to macro human
process, the organizational grid has been deleted. In the 1990s, this theme is
expanded with the search conferences and large group interventions. The
techno-structural interventions undergo immense growth during 1975 and
2001: from socio-technical thinking and self-directing teams to involving
employees, trimming down and business process re-engineering. The latter
topic is also the last new topic in this area. The human resources management
interventions also burgeon between 1975 and 1993: reward systems, performance
management and weli-being are among the topics. Yet no new interventions are
added after 1993.
In the 2003 edition, the latest topics in the area of interventions are aimed at
individuals and micro processes and at strategy.

Design of this Study


The research design of this study can be characterized as qualitative forecasting,
i.e. it aims to identify and combine subjective judgments of the future (Dunn,
2004). From the various techniques that can be used in qualitative forecasting,
the policy-directed Deiphi technique was chosen as the most appropriate. This
is a research method in which the knowledge of a group of experts is
combined through an iterative process spanning two or more rounds of data
collection (Geurts and Vennix, 1989; Dunn, 2004). Two rounds of data collection
were organized: one round of interviews in which experts were interviewed
individually using semistructured in-depth interviews (averaging 70 minutes),
and a collective workshop round (of 3 hours) in which the interview resuits
were fed back into the group to elicit further in-depth discussion of the desired
future of OD.
Taking its cue from the study by Worley and Feyerherm (2003), this study also
focused on leading experts in the field of OD to harvest their learning. To find
these leading experts the reputation method was used (Flick, 1998), asking 10
persons active in the OD field as adviser, researcher or both (thus, insiders):
who do you consider to be the leading experts in OD in the Netherlands? This
The Future of Organization Development 397
produced a list of 45 names. These names were subsequently checked through
desktop research (using the Intemet) with respect to the following criteria: (1)
Dutch nationality, (2) active within the OD field in the Netherlands, (3) scientific
publications in the OD field, and (4) named as top expert by at least three of
the ten insiders. This left a list of 28 Dutch OD experts, 22 of whom
responded positively to the invitation to participate in this study (14 of the 22
experts participated in the workshop). The group comprised 5 female and 17
male experts, varying in age between 35 and 70. The group consisted of
highly respected, self-assured and self-aware professionals: they represented a
certain way of working, have a proven reputation, refer to their own relevant
experiences and different dient groups, and believe in specific approaches or
values.
Interviewing of the individual experts followed a semistructured approach. The
points of criticism of OD as found in the literature (Table 1) were put to the
experts in the form of challenging statements. The experts were furthermore
questioned about the past and desired development of OD by confronting
them, among others, with the trends found in the Cummings and Worley
handbook.
Interview transcripts were subjected to content analysis, using a pattern-coding
technique to identify themes, trends, contradictions, etc. in the views of the experts
(Miles and Huberman, 1994).
The goal of the workshop was to deepen and interpret the results obtained so far.
The resuits from the interview round were collected in a presentation held at the
start of the workshop. During this workshop, the experts were explicitly asked to
formulate as sharply as possibly their key messages for the future development of
OD. There was no need for the experts to reach consensus.
Data were recorded on video, wall charts and by taking notes, and subsequently
subjected to a content analysis. A summary was made of the main thrust of the
discussion per topic, the amount of time spent discussing that subject was
measured (frequency), and the number of different experts that engaged in the
discussion was tracked (diversity). This second round of data collection and
refinement was not part of the study conducted by Worley and Feyerherm.
The researchers did not expect, and indeed did not discover in the data, one
unambiguous set of visions, views, opinions and insights shared by all experts.
The group was composed to achieve a variety of expertise, experience and
views on the field of OD. This means that opposing views were deliberately
incorporated. 1f one were to apply classic logic to create a classification of such
material any given element could only belong to one category. Yet such a
clear-cut distinction is generally not found in nature, and is certainly not found
in human visions of the future. That is why a classification procedure motivated
by fuzzy set theory was developed. This theory of classification allows for a
certain measure of vagueness and inaccuracy (Zadeh, 1965; Eyzenga and
Westerhof, 1997). The parameters may be vague, the elements can overlap, but
the distinctions should nonetheless be significant. This method helped to cluster
the important, different and often-conflicting desired developments and proposals
for action. Not every expert that participated in the study would be comfortable
with all items in the set of categories.
398 F. Korten et al.
Resuits: Future Directions and an Agenda for OD
The resuits of the Deiphi study are summarized in two tables. Table 2 contains
ideas that were interpreted as statements of a desired direction for the develop
ment of OD. Table 3 orders statements that are clearly calls for action.
Table 3 can be read a To Do list for OD as it emerged from the field work.
The section below will first describe each direction for OD and then present a
summary in Table 2.

Table 2. Desired directions for organization development (OD)


Desired directions for OD

No. of
No. of transcriptions
Core theme citations (max. = 22) Example citation

Balance hard and soft sides 69 22 The dient demands that you can act with a
view to development as well as to
business processes.
Adopt a more demand-driven 65 20 Yes, identify what the real questions are
approach for organizations at the present
moment.
Become more situational and 48 16 It no longer clearly connects to its
more context-driven environment, so that should happen
more.
Revamp the original core of 39 14 (...) But our starting point remains OD,
OD you cannot let that paradigm be
trampled underfoot. But (...) you need
to involve those other values too.
Return to the core and stick to 37 8 (.. .), stick to your trade. And 1 agree with
that those that say that you should tackle the
harder side, but my question is: should
OD do that?
Be open to other approaches 36 17 And for that you should incorporate all
sorts of approaches, or be familiar with
them (...).
Positioning as one of the 34 14 There is no cure-ali theory, different
approaches situations call for different approaches.
Better link between practice 27 16 (...), 1 believe that science should seek Out
and science the practical field.
More or less value-bound 22 13 OD should certainly search out the things
and values that drive people (..
More reflection 12 8 The best groups are groups that, from time
to time, reflect on and ponder what they
are doing and where they want to go
from here (...).

Balance Hard and Soft Sides

OD should discontinue the one-sided emphasis on the soft (socialscientific) side


of organizations, and seek a balance with the harder (strategic/business
The Future of Organization Development 399

Table 3. To do list for organization development (OD) in the future

Instruction list for OD in the future

To Do Description

Systematic evaluation OD should improve its empirical underpinning by a stronger link between
practice and science. This will also enable the development of a general
integrated OD theory for organizational change.
Declare identity OD can become more distinct by making dear choices in what it does and
does not do for clients (it should focus). This will also clarify the
definition and semantics of OD, and what OD can do for organizations.
Be proactively dient- By being more sensitive and responsive to the (complex) situation and
oriented context of the dient, ODs added value will become clearer. It is all
right for OD to be more assertive and vocal, thereby presenting an
effective alternative to other approaches.
Adopt an open attitude By emphasizing the hard side of organizations as well and by using
knowledge from other approaches, OD adopts an open system
perspective and ceases to be a naive movement. This does not however
mean that OD should be able to tackle everything; it should not become
a cure-all approach.
Cherish quality Focusing on assuring the quality of (new generations of) OD
professionals also means focusing on the quality and continuity of the
approach.
More reflection By reflecting more on the approach, OD can maintain a critical stance.
There should also be more reflection and exchange among OD
professionals. This will enable people to learn from each other and will
promote discussions in the field (for example, about the value-driven
nature of OD).

operational) side of organizations. The simple fact is that organizations consist of


these two sides and OD should not neglect this fact.

Adopt a More Dernand-driven Approach

Because OD takes place within organizations, organizations represent the demand


side of the OD approach. For OD is about developing people and organizations,
in the context of and driven by the goals of that organization. In doing so, OD
should start focusing on and responding more to the real issues that todays
organizations are facing, and it may well take a more proactive approach to that
demand side.

Become More Situational and More Context-driven

OD should become more aware of and responsive to the situation in which an


organization operates. Thus, one should always start by asking the question: is
this a situation in which the OD approach is the right approach to deploy? 1f
so, then OD should always take its cue from the context in which the
organization is operating. OD should thus adopt more of an open-system
perspective.
400 F. Korten et al.

Revamp the Original Core of OD

OD should hang onto the healthy and powerful aspects of the old core of OD. Yet
where necessary, the weaker aspects should be abandoned and replaced by new
powerful core values of todays world. The OD core should be revitalized, thus
giving OD a makeover.

Return to the Core and Stick to That

The discipline should stick to its own trade and should cherish the old core of OD;
it is from this that the approach derives its identity and effectiveness. OD should
therefore continue to focus on the human processes within organizations, to coun
terbalance the harder approaches that focus more on the content of business
processes.

Be Open to Other Approaches

OD is too much of a one-sided approach to satisfy the demands of contemporary


organizations. That is why OD should be much more open to other approaches
that, for example, focus on the strategic, financialeconomic, technical and philo
sophical side of organizations. There is much that OD can learn from those
approaches.

Positioning as One of the Approaches

The discipline needs a clearer definition of what OD actually is and what dis
tinguishes it from other (strategic or technical) approaches. OD should not be posi
tioned as the container approach for organizational change: OD must declare its
identity and emphasize what it can do for organizations.

Better Link Between Practice and Research

The link between scholarly research and practical professional work has to be
improved. On the one hand, scholars should seek out the practical field and
conduct more practice-oriented research. Researchers should be open to a
variety of scientific norms and principles, because the classic empirical criteria
are difficult to realize when studying OD interventions. On the other hand, OD
professionals should seek Out science to assess and evaluate their interventions,
thereby making these more evidence-based.

More or Less Value-driven

Some of the respondents feel that OD should insist more on the norms and values
that are intrinsic to the OD approach. Empowering people, for example, is a
mission that OD needs not be shy about and this means becoming more explicitly
value-driven. Conversely, another group of respondents feels that OD should drop
the moralistic tone that it traditionally employs. By becoming less value-based,
The Future of Organization Development 401
OD will seem less naive and will be perceived less as a social or ideological
movement.

More Reflection

It would benefit the further development of the approach to engage in more reflec
tion. By reflecting and exchanging views and opinions, an approach can learn from
what went before and acquire knowledge for the future.
Table 2 summarizes the core themes of the desired directions. The table also
indicates how often each theme emerged (frequency) and in how many different
transcripts this occurred (diversity). Finally, one citation, as an example, is
quoted per theme.
Especially during the workshop, experts say that OD should acquire more
focus, so that it can become more distinct. Yet at the same time and this
they perceive as a dilemma OD should expand its applicability, so that it can

be used in more places, and in more instances, in more and more varied organiz
ations. Table 3 presents the desired agenda for OD, formulated as concrete instruc
tions for the field, as identified by the Dutch experts.
These results were with the results and conciusions of the study of Worley and
Feyerherm (2003) among American founding fathers and many similarities
merged. The main difference, however, between the two studies is a discussion
that clearly features in the Netherlands, but seems less relevant in the USA. The
discussion in the Netherlands concerns the question of how OD should show
and apply its power. Some of the Dutch respondents feel that OD should return
to its core: of applying the old humanistic core values to helping organizations
improve. Other Dutch experts see this as a typical seventies mentality and
thus old-fashioned. According to them, OD must adapt to the world of organiz
ations today; it should seek to balance the soft and hard sides, should seek to
work alongside other approaches, and should be open to renewal. This hot issue
among Dutch experts may also exist among the American founding fathers,
but it was not reported by Worley and Feyerherm (2003).

Conciusion
Clearly, there were heated debates among the Dutch experts. However, they did
produce future directions and an agenda with action points for the future of
OD. But, they did not agree. They perceived the concept of OD in many different
ways. It gradually became dear to the research team that an experts fundamental
perspective on OD is likely to have a strong influence on his or her view concern
ing the desired future development of OD. It also appeared that the group of
experts assembied for this study held significantly divergent views on the nature
OD. Six underlying basic views on OD emerged from the analysis. These six
views suggested themselves as the fuzzy categories of the collective OD ambi
tion. These are six partly overlapping, but quite contrasting, views on the essence
and thus on the desirable future of organization development.
The following paragraphs describe, summarize and present these six views,
creating a palette of conflicting but important ambitions that should drive the
402 F. Korten et al.
future of OD. Because these separate views were strongly characteristic of (dus
ters of) individual respondents, each ambition is labeled as a social category.

1. The Evidence Seekers


It is important to perform more research into the effectiveness of various types of
interventions (inciuding OD interventions): OD needs to accumulate more evi
dence concerning the interventions. This is a plea to develop an (applied) social
science, with much attention for the evaluation of interventions and for the con
struction of a body of knowledge regarding the effectiveness and non-effectiveness
of the intervention repertoire. OD should invest in obtaining more knowledge about
indications and contraindications for use. Whatever proves to work in practice is
good. OD is clearly an applied behavioral science. This plea is voiced by By
(2005), De Sonnaville (2005) and more recently Baaijens et al. (2009).

2. The Moralists
The values underlying OD are the most important part of the OD approach. This
mainly concerns humanist values, such as respect for people, tolerance and under
standing, democracy and participation, individual autonomy and personal respon
sibility. This view sees OD as an ideology, as a (humanist) movement. This means
that people s intentions play a major role, making it a matter of finding and
increasing a group of believers among the change agents (organization consult
ants and managers), as well as among dient organizations and principals. The
discussion on the importance of moral values is also fueled by the failure of an
one-sided focus on shareholder value (De Caluw, 2009) and the wish to not
only serve capital.

3. The Professionals
OD is a discipline and OD practitioners constitute a profession. The discipline
concentrates on various developments, which can summarily be described as relat
ing to just about everything except what you learn at business schools and in MBA
programs. The discipline and the practitioners can be distinguished mainly
through the knowledge that they use (the handbooks in this field), the training pro
grams that they follow, the role models that they acknowledge, and the typical
commissions and best practices that they perform. There is a professional com
munity of people calling themselves OD practitioners that exchange experiences,
accumulate knowledge and further advance the discipline. There are dedicated
training programs for the prospective practitioners (see, for example, the discus
sion prompted by Mintzberg at various occasions).

4. The Sense-makers
What sets OD practitioners apart is that they know themselves and their strengths,
as well as their weaknesses. They see themselves as an instrument that exerts
influence over the direct environment by way of interaction and sensemaking.
The Future of Organization Development 403
They are able to deliberately apply this interaction and the capacity to influence to
individuals, groups and organizations. They know very well what they want and
what they do not want; they are mission-bound on a personal level and can
connect to people that have similar missions. This view is strongly expressive
of the belief that all change can essentially be understood in terms of interaction
and sensemaking between (two or more) people.

5. The People s Advocates

OD has an important task to fulfill, especially in this (past?) era of shareholder


value dominance and a one-sided emphasis on economic parameters. OD is a
kind of countervailing power that should offset this shareholder and economic
value with its own alternative values, offering a different orientation. In doing
so, OD does need to learn to relate to the top segment of organizations and to
convey its message persuasively here as well. That message must also be con
veyed in the public arena. This will make OD a counter-movement (counter
veiling power) and will trigger dialectical mechanisms.

6. The Pragmatists

The last view that emerged can best be typified as contextual professionalism.
This means that dilemmas (and the discipline of OD encounters many) can only
be solved in the field of practice and through concrete action. Thus, OD should
rely on the mechanisms of the free market. Principals and managers that are
attracted to certain approaches will choose for these, and other principals will
choose differently. In the same way, organization consultants will seek out prin
cipals and dient organizations with whom they feel comfortable. So let the differ
ent forces interact freely, and everything will work out fine.
These six views are indeed fuzzy sets. There are overlaps and the boundaries
are not sharp. But in each view a different core and different values for OD can be
recognized. The explanatory relationship between an experts fundamental per
spective on OD and his or her vision on the desired future development of OD
was not presupposed while conducting the study, and can be seen as a concomitant
insight, alongside the conciusions of the study. This insight prompts further expli
cation as well as further research.
The findings of this Dutch study have been presented here without knowing
exactly how representative or different the Dutch OD situation is from that in
other parts of the OD world. It would take complex comparative studies to estab
lish this insight. The Dutch OD colleagues are certainly very weli-connected to the
global scholarly network and they are active in international professional associ
ations. The Dutch experts prove to represent a very diverse set of views and
insights, a diversity that can also be witnessed when one participates in inter
national fora and meetings. Also the Dutch organizations on which or experts
reflect are very diverse. The Netherlands has a very open, global and service
oriented economy and its (many different) organizational cultures are fed by
Anglo-Saxon, Rhinelandic, Scandinavian and Latin cultural elements (Hofstede,
1991, 2001). It is the diversity of views in particular that are suggested here
404 F. Korten et al.
as a potentially very productive Dutch input to the debate in the global OD
community.
So how can OD proceed from here? What do the resuits of this study add to
the practical implications that Worley and Feyerherm (2003) derive from their
study? These authors formulate three recommendations. First, in the development
of pro spective OD practitioners the individual s development, the professional
practice and the theory should remain balanced. Second, practitioners in the
field should start to make explicit and to formalize the knowledge that is
applied tacitly. Third, it is necessary to establish a weli-balanced research agenda.
It is dear that Worley and Feyerherm stress the importance of knowledge,
research and reflection in their agenda for the future. Their views seem to correlate
with those of The Evidence Seekers and The Professionals. However, the future of
OD as it emerges from the study reported here is not exclusively that of an axiom
driven and weil-structured, empirically tested form of applied social science. Nor
does OD seem to develop via a dear bifurcation in the road ahead, as Bushe and
Marshak (2009) suggest. They juxtapose (classical) diagnostic OD with a new
style of dialogic OD which seems to correlate most with the ambitions and prin
ciples of the Sense-makers.
OD, as it emerges from the Dutch practice, is now and will most likely remain in
the future a loosely coupled community of practice, linking very diverse ideas,
practices, professionals and scholars. The members share and cherish their identity
as OD devotees. They all subscribe to a very broad common professional goal and
that is to contribute to modern society by improving its most defining element: its
complex (network of) organizations. OD is a complex system that organizes to
influence other complex systems, i.e. organizations. This suggests that one can
apply OD concepts to the future of OD. Ahsbys famous Law of Requisite
Variety comes to mmd here (Ashby, 1958). So do the many publications of
Karl Weick (1976, 1982/2001) in which he shows how loosely coupled
systems can use diversity, self-determination, dialogue and local learning to
develop innovation and resilience.
The OD community of the future should reflect the diversity and complexity
of modem organizational life because that is strength not weakness. Thus, one
finds different priorities and values in this community, some of them even
dilemmatic. It is unavoidable and clearly beneficial that this results in different
preferences, styles and ambitions. All these ambitions seem important and
necessary for the future sustainability of the OD practice. They do not have
to be realized or combined in each person or each project. In line with the
above-mentioned classic and modem organizational concepts such as requisite
variety and resilience, it is the community of practice as an organizing whole
that has to make sure that in the future more than in the past, this diverse set
of important ambitions can be discussed, promoted, fostered, accommodated
and realized.

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